How to Culture Phytoplankton and Zooplankton

How to Culture Phytoplankton and Zooplankton

You can culture your own Phytoplankton and Zooplankton for your reef tank.

What is Phytoplankton and Zooplankton?

Phytoplankton

Phytoplankton

Phytoplankton is also known as microalgae is a plant. It can grow and multiply using fertilizer and a light source to photosynthesize.

Zooplankton

Zooplankton

Zooplankton is also known as rotifers. It is an organism which feeds on microalgae, the first mentioned Phytoplankton. It is an animal and consists of a very wide variety of organisms.

Both are great sources of nutrition for any reef tank. Many creatures feed on both Phytoplankton and Zooplankton such as shrimp, copepods, amphipods, snails, starfish, corals, etc. all feed on these. They form a part of the lower level organisms in the natural reefs in the oceans. The Zooplankton is also used by breeders to feed to new saltwater fry and larvae.

How to Culture Phytoplankton and Zooplankton

You can get a culture kit from Reef Aquatics. They sell the products separately or you can buy the entire culture kit which includes Phytoplankton, Zooplankton, fertilizer for the Phytoplankton, airline tubing, valve and air pump. The complete set. Included with the culture kit are instructions on how to setup your culture accordingly.

Basically, think of the setup as a food chain. The fertilizer is consumed by the Phytoplankton and then the Phytoplankton is consumed by the Zooplankton. You want to culture the Phytoplankton with fertilizer in one container and the Zooplankton in another container, feeding it Phytoplankton.

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Simple phytoplankton and zooplankton culture setup

On the left, there is a bottle with Phytoplankton (microalgae). Add 1ml of the fertilizer to the Phytoplankton culture per 1l and give it a light source. A spiral energy saving bulb with daylight will do. Keep the light on for 16 hours and off for 8 hours. The Phytoplankton will consume the fertilizer and use the light source to photosynthesize. As a result, the water will become darker green in colour.

On the right, there is a bottle with Zooplankton (rotifers). The Zooplankton doesn’t necessarily need a light source but it is fine as well. You want to keep the water of the Zooplankton culture green by dosing from the Phytoplankton container into the Zooplankton container. With time, the Zooplankton culture will become less green as the Zooplankton consumes the Phytoplankton (green water) then you want to add again. You can add Phytoplankton to the Zooplankton culture daily.

About 3 days in once your cultures are growing, you can start harvesting 25% of each daily. Stir up each container and take out 25% of the water. You can dose some of the culture into your reef tank(s) and use some of it to create more containers with cultures. For the water that you take out, dilute each culture again with either tank water or salt water that you premix.

Just note that dosing these cultures into your reef tank and possibly overdosing may not cause harm but could drastically increase the nutrient levels in your tank which you may not want. I suggest adding 10ml per 100l daily if you want to.

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